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Daily News Blog

12
Jul

Tell Your Congressional Reps to Cosponsor Pollinator Legislation; Thank Those Who Already Have

(Beyond Pesticides, July 12, 2021) During Pollinator Week 2021 in June, U.S. Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Jim McGovern (D-MA) reintroduced the Saving America’s Pollinators Act (SAPA) to reverse ongoing declines in wild and managed pollinators. New data released in June for 2020-21 documents the second highest honey bee losses in 15 years. SAPA uses the latest scientific research and perspectives to ensure that pollinators are protected. The bill suspends the use of neonicotinoid (neonic) insecticides and other pesticides harmful to bees and other pollinators until an independent board of experts determines that they are safe to use, based on a strong scientific assessment.

Ask your elected representative in Congress to support pollinators by cosponsoring Saving America’s Pollinators Act (SAPA). If they are already a cosponsor, use this occasion to thank them for their leadership on this critical issue.

“Without our world’s pollinators, the world would be a very different place. These bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other creatures are essential elements of our food system. Losing them means we risk losing the very food we put on our table,” said Rep. Blumenauer. “We must use every tool at our disposal to provide pollinators with much-needed relief from bee-toxic pesticides and monitor their populations to ensure their health and survival.”

Neonicotinoids are systemic pesticides; once applied to a seed or sprayed on a plant they make their way into the pollen, nectar and dew droplets that plants produce and pollinators feed upon. Exposure impairs pollinator navigation, foraging, and learning behavior, and also suppresses their immune system, making them more susceptible to disease and pathogens like the varroa mite.

American beekeepers have lost over 30% of their hives annually over the past decade, while wild pollinators are threatened with extinction. The iconic American Bumblebee has lost 89% of its population over the last 20 years. Populations of eastern monarchs have declined by 80% since the 1990s. This past year, citizens scientists participating in the western monarch count found a scant 2,000 butterflies—down from 1.2 million in the 1990s, 300,000 in 2016, and 30,000 in 2019. Peer-reviewed scientific studies show all of these impacts to be associated with the use of toxic pesticides.

The harmful effects of neonicotinoids and other pollinator-toxic pesticides are not siloed in the environment, however. Declines in pollinator populations work their way up and down food chains and across food webs, from the plants depending upon pollination, to the people who rely on the healthful, nutrient-dense food that pollination provides. Pollination services are valued at $125 billion globally, and pollinators are responsible for one in three bites of food, including nuts, fruits, and vegetables. Past research has found that the loss of pollination services would have a devastating impact on global nutritional health, with women and children most affected. Already in the U.S., many communities lack access to healthy fruits and vegetables –allowing the pollinator crisis to continue unabated is likely to exacerbate these problems by increasing prices on important staples.

The Saving America’s Pollinators Act will not only save America’s pollinators. SAPA will help people who depend on pollination services for healthy food. SAPA will help underserved communities by eliminating unnecessary exposure to pesticides in public green spaces. SAPA will stop the poisoning of farmworkers who work on the farms that grow the plants that bees and insects pollinate. SAPA will also protect the broader web of life that is being devastated by the use of systemic insecticides. According to the Task Force on Systemic Insecticides, consisting of 242 scientists from across the world, “The balance of evidence strongly suggests that these chemicals [neonicotinoids] are harming beneficial insects and contributing to the current massive loss of global biodiversity.”

Neonicotinoids also harm people directly when used to manage grub problems on turf, despite the availability of alternative methods.  The latest research links neonicotinoids to nervous system toxicity, reproductive damage, and birth defects. In particular, reviews have found links to birth defects of the heart and brain, and the development of finger tremors. Neonicotinoids appear to disproportionately affect the male reproductive system, and animal studies have found cause for concern – from decreased testosterone levels to abnormal and low sperm count (see NRDC for more on the harms of neonics to human health). As reported by the Black Institute, pesticides like glyphosate are disproportionately sprayed in black and brown communities, where public parks are often the only green space available for family picnics and outings.

Beneficial soil dwelling insects, benthic aquatic insects, and grain-eating vertebrates like songbirds are in danger from neonicotinoid use. Neonicotinoid concentrations detected in aquatic environments present hazards to aquatic invertebrates and the ecosystems they support. Neonics adversely affects shrimp and oyster health, decreasing their nutritional value.

There is also evidence of adverse effects harming bird populations. A single corn kernel coated with a neonicotinoid is toxic enough to kill a songbird. Studies conducted in the wild find songbirds that feed on neonicotinoid-contaminated seeds during their migration route display reduced weigh delayed travel, and low rates of survival. The author of ”Common insecticide threatens survival of wild, migrating birds,” ecotoxicologist Chrissy Morrisey, PhD, told Environmental Health News, “Our study shows that this is bigger than the bees — birds can also be harmed by modern neonicotinoid pesticides which should worry us all.” Data from the Netherlands has shown that the most severe bird population declines occurred in those areas where neonicotinoid pollution was highest. These data are alarming in the context of reports finding three billion birds (30% total) lost since 1970 in part due to pesticide use.

SAPA will reorient pesticide regulation towards the protection of pollinators and ecosystem health–an approach that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has long failed to adequately consider.

Specifically, the Saving America’s Pollinators Act:

  • Establishes a Pollinator Protection Board (PPB), consisting of scientists, beekeepers, farmers, and conservationists that have no direct or indirect ties to pesticide companies, in order to evaluate pesticides for their toxicity to pollinators and pollinator habitat;
  • Cracks down on insecticides that are toxic to pollinators by canceling the registration of neonicotinoid pesticides or pesticides containing imidacloprid, clothianidin, thiamethoxam, dinotefuran, acetamiprid, sulfoxaflor, flupyradifurone, or fipronil until they are properly reviewed by the Pollinator Protection Board; and
  • Implements a state-of-the-art monitoring network for native bees, ensuring that experts and the general public have up-to-date information on the status of native bee populations.

The newest bill language also updates the standard to which the PPB regulates toxic pesticides, making determinations on whether the pesticide presents an unacceptable hazard, based upon the potential to cause harm, including injury, illness, or damage to honey bees, and other pollinators, or pollinator habitat. This language would set pesticide regulation more in line with the precautionary approach taken by the European Union and other international bodies.

Ask your elected representative in Congress to support pollinators by cosponsoring Saving America’s Pollinators Act (SAPA). If they are already a cosponsor, use this occasion to thank them for their leadership on this critical issue.

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